Today we’d like to introduce you to Isaiah Jaay.
Isaiah, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
As Wizard Kelly would say, “It all started with a basketball”. I’m just kidding. Wassup, I’m Isaiah Jaay, singer/songwriter from Los Angeles, California. I started in the church singing at like seven years old. My whole family sings except like five people and those five be hating everytime we start singing altogether and they can’t join in (lol). My grandfather is Joe Ligon, lead singer of the Mighty Clouds of Joy, which is one of the biggest gospel quartet groups ever to touch gospel music. Being that everybody could sing and who my grandfather was, I had big shoes to fill and it made me insecure a lot because to me, I wasn’t filling them. The shoe was way too big, in my eyes. So that insecurity stuck with me for a long time just growing up. Also, just being told “you’re too church for R&B but too R&B for church” all the time”, made this journey pretty hard.
Eventually, when I got in middle school and Facebook got popping, I started recording covers on there and started getting known from Facebook. This was before I was Isaiah Jaay. I was called “SimpingNPimping”. Embarrassing? Yea, I know. I just wanted something clever and catchy, and it worked cause literally everyone called me that. So through middle school, I was known for singing on facebook, and being my family is a gospel background, if the song was too much, I definitely had to block the family from the video. It would just be bad because people would walk up to me like “that video you made last night was fire” and then my mom or dad would be like “what video?” And I would have to lie and say “it was their birthday, and I sang them happy birthday”. That was my excuse everytime. Got to high school, and was still just singing, but Instagram came out, so it went to a new level. I started winning contests, singing at block parties and all that, but I was still being introduced as “SimpingNPimping” and I felt like I was getting too old for that. 11th grade, I changed my name to Isaiah Jaay. I wanted my name to “Isaiah Rashaud” because that’s my middle name, but Isaiah Rashad from TDE came out and took my Lil juice away. So I had to come up with something else, and so it was Isaiah Jaay with 2 A’s, just like in Isaiah, cause everybody spells my name wrong. During school, I sang at pep rallies, black history month programs, cyphers, etc.
During the second semester of my 12th-grade year, KJLH came to my school to do a workshop/industry experience called Project Pit, where they go to schools, and work with kids with talent, buffering and shining them into an artist that they never thought they could be. The founder of Project Pit is Carlton Epic & my vocal coach was the amazing Tyra Dennis. I sang You Got it Bad by Usher, one of my favorite songs, and in one of the rehearsals something special happened. Brandon Rainey, writer/director/innovator, came to sit on a rehearsal. God knew what he was doing because he came on the day I had to rehearse my performance on stage, in which I was so nervous, cause the way described him was a big deal and said he was looking to cast people for his musical, Lion King. Scared as ever, I sing, and I believe I did terrible, but he liked it and invited me to a rehearsal that same night. I walk into rehearsal, and it’s over 300+ kids there and I’m the new kid. Some knew from Instagram but you know how people stare and don’t speak because they don’t know if it’s really you? It was a bunch of that going on.
Overall, I was overwhelmed, but everybody was nice. I end up casting the role as Rafiki in the play. So listen, I was scared to death. I don’t have acting experience unless it was a church Easter or a Christmas play. This was a whole different world for me, and I was petrified. I knew I could sing but acting and dancing ? Especially with people who was advanced at doing this already, scared me. The process end up showing me a lot and helping me grow vocally, and I end up sticking around CBG (Chosen by God) and doing many plays/ musicals with them like FAME, House of Mirrors, Romeo & Juliet, A Tale if 2 MAAD Citiez, Curtain Call, etc. I graduated high school with a 3.94 And was supposed to go to Clark Atlanta University, but because of financial situations it didn’t work out so I ended up at West LA and working at Old Navy, and I hated both. I only loved performing and singing after I did Lion King because growing up, I didn’t have a theater background, so this was something brand new for me and I wanted to be the best at it. That’s all I wanted to do but I was broke, so I eventually worked at Rue 21 and was still making it to rehearsals for the next plays and stuff. From there, Isaiah Jaay really became a brand and started getting known. My boy, Rasuul Shabazz, from Westchester, would see me on Instagram singing and doing acapella videos with harmonies and he said “you should be doing in this studio, why you playing?”, and he took me under his wing and brought me into the studio for the first time and really believed in me. I will never forget that. While meeting Rasuul, I met Waltmansa (amazing producer), Paul (amazing producer) & AlecBeatz(amazing producer).
Through them, I dropped my first three songs Feel Good, Relationship Bruise, and Level. They both blew up on SoundCloud and that’s when Isaiah Jaay became who he was. I’m forever grateful for them. Relationship Bruise, a remix of Tink’s Treat Me like Somebody, was the breakout song, and I started performing it at Open mics, schools, etc. Eventually, I got invited to a Tuffcrowd radio show by one of my best friends currently, but at the time, social media friend, Teouna Monae. She was so hilarious and really gassed me up to Tuffcrowd. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the radio show and my face was on the flyer and all that, and I didn’t want them hating me, so I rescheduled and end up coming, two weeks later. It was so much fun. The energy was crazy, and it was nothing other than a good time. I had to freestyle and mash-up songs off the dome and all that and I was really good at it, so once I found out I could mash up songs, that became my new thing. Tuffcrowd ends up, inviting me to be apart of their music and poetry show titled “Don’t Change the Channel” in which I sang Coming From Where I’m From by Anthony Hamilton. Halla, the CEO of Tuffcrowd, really believed in me and my talents. My birthday came around and I had a concert and Tuffcrowd came and did their signature birthday song, for me, and it lit the whole room up.
After that day, I asked to join and I was apart of Tuffcrowd because I already felt like they were my family and they really rocked with ya boy. Fast forward to now, I been in Tuffcrowd, almost four years, I’m the music director of ITG (Inglewood Theater Group), which is the new version of CBG in which I use to do plays for, and I’m a full-time artist doing what I love to do. I’ve sang with Stevie Wonder for his Toys for Tots Christmas special, opened up for Eric Bellinger, Mila J, Ginuwine, etc. I’ve sang background for Ziggy Marley, and I’m currently working on an EP. I’ve been doing Zaymixes, in which I take someone’s song and remix it, but I make it totally different, into a brand new song like its mine. That has been lasting me for a long time but I’m ready to make originals. So that’s my current goal. I left Rue 21, two years ago and was blessed with a job to work with kids as a music director for the plays I use to do. Forever grateful for Brandon’s Rainey and Michael “Halla” Williams, for their belief in me and every opportunity they put in front of me. I would also like to big shoutout, God because without him, I am nothing and would be nowhere. I attend Greater Zion in Compton, 2408 N Wilmington Ave. The best church ever, pastored by Michael JT Fisher. I’m just excited to see where God takes me next, 2019 has been more than amazing already.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road definitely wasn’t smooth. I’ve always had the support of my family and friends, but you know, how social media goes. The bigger you get, the more haters and trolls you get. People have made fake pages of my lips, my teeth, my forehead, everything but my voice. I’ve been told, I would never make it because I didn’t want to sing gospel. Like I said earlier, I was always told I was “too R&B for church but to gospel for R&B” but I had to realize, that’s who Isaiah Jaay is and if we at a R&B concert and someone catch the Holy Ghost, then it is what it is. What God has for me, is for me, and no matter what it is, I know if God wants me to have it, it’s mine for the taking.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m a singer /songwriter / music director / stylist. I’m known for my Zaymixes and mashups. I’m just proud of how far I’ve come and just the amount of support that I’ve gotten cause it’s so many people doing this “artist” thing that people really don’t have to rock with you the way they do. That’s why I never take it for granted and try and say thank you everytime I get the chance.
I think what sets me apart from everybody else is that I’ve never met nobody like me.The way I dress is different, even with my signature Beret look that I do. I always stand out. It’s rare, you will see me in a bad mood or not dancing somewhere to music or no music at all. I’m quick on my feet, with jokes or music and all around I’m probably the best friend to have in your life. Regardless if you want to or not, ima make sure you doing what God put you on this Earth to do. You may hate me for it, but in the end you’ll thank me.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
God, is always number one, for giving me the gift. Brandon Rainey – got me started. Don’t know where I would be currently if he didn’t snatch before I graduated. Michael “Halla” Williams for bettering my craft, challenging me, and trusting me with so much with my little that I thought I had. My Auntie Debra for taking me to my first ever audition and always endorsing me to everyone. My granny for her words of wisdom. My parents for having ya boy and always supporting me from day 1. Linda Anderson for forcing me to perform at “Soul Lounge” everytime I said no, helping me get rid of my nerves and making me the performer I am today. Project Pit for just being a blessing. My pastor, Michael JT Fisher, for teaching me about the gospel and growing me up spiritually, forever indebted. Rasuul Shabazz for giving me that chance, and anyone else, I missed, I apologize.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @isaiah_jaay
- Twitter: @Isaiah_jaay